Easy Ways to Save Money on Cereal

by Tricia Goss

Cereal can be outrageously expensive, but with hectic mornings and finicky eaters, it might be your saving grace at breakfast time. Fortunately, there are ways to save on this morning staple.

Don't let prices fool you. Often, cereal manufacturers and grocery stores have sales on cereal, making it seem like a good deal. However, if you are only getting three bowls out of one box, it isn't much of a bargain. Even if the box looks big, check the size in ounces, and then check the sticker on the shelf for the price per ounce. The next larger (or even smaller) box may be a much larger deal.

Be unfaithful. When it comes to cereal, store brands are hard to distinguish from national brands. These days you can find almost all of your family's favorites in a store brand variety. If you think your kids will turn up their noses, try this. Next time they polish off their favorite, save the empty box. Pick up a package of the comparable store brand and make a sneaky swap. See if they notice the difference. If not, you've got yourself a cheaper keeper!

Savings are in the bag! Along with store brands, national brands that package their cereal in bags are much more economical than their boxed counterparts. If you find that the bags are difficult to store, keep your eye out for plastic cereal containers at thrift stores and yard sales.

Clip those coupons. Rather than use a cereal coupon the same week it was printed, watch and wait. Nearly every week, grocery stores offer sale prices on a few brands of cereal. Keep your coupons until that particular brand is in your store flyer and then grab it. Sometimes stores offer deep discounts on a few varieties. If it's one of those hard-to-pass-up deals, stock up. Cereal has a fairly long shelf life.

Buy less often and stretch your cereal dollar. Bulk up your family's bowls with seasonal or frozen fruit for a delicious breakfast using less cereal. Serve up a breakfast parfait by layering yogurt (bought in more economical larger size containers) with your child's favorite cereal. Or, create a custom blend. Sweeter cereals tend to be more expensive and less healthful. Mix your kids' favorite sugary brand with a healthier store brand.

And when you find yourself left with less than a bowl full, or buy a variety that your family just is not keen on, do not throw it out! There are many ways to use the remaining bits of cereal in that box. Unsweetened varieties can be crushed and interchanged with breadcrumbs in all of your favorite recipes. Try corn flakes as a casserole topping. Shredded wheat makes a crunchy crust for fried chicken. And more sugary brands can be used as a surprising, sweet add-in to cookies or muffins.

If your family prefers hot cereal, stay away from the single-serving packages of oatmeal. Instead, buy a container of quick-cooking oats. You can still prepare it quickly, and personalize it to each family member's taste by adding flavors such as brown sugar, bits of apple, or honey.

Once you have used up every last bit of cereal, stretch your buck a bit further. Cereal boxes can be very useful. Use them to wrap gifts, ship unbreakable items, or even make a sturdy, personalized gift bag. Cut off the tabs of cardboard on the open end of the box. Cover the box with wallpaper remnants, magazine photos or gift-wrap that will suit your recipient. Punch two holes on each side of the open end and thread pieces of yarn as handles.

You can use the inner cereal bags in most ways you might use waxed paper. They also make great wrappers for homemade bread, and are great splatter guards for the microwave (slip a plate of food inside a bag before you microwave it).

Finding ways to save money on cereal is easy. By shopping wisely, paying attention, and using a bit of creativity, you can feel good about giving your family cereal once more!

Take the Next Step:

  • They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it's a great place to make healthy, budget-friendly choices. For more ideas on providing your family with a economical and healthy breakfast visit The Dollar Stretcher library.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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